Not too long ago, a report surfaced of a breatharian couple who claims to be able to survive on nothing but “the cosmic energy of the universe.” Any food they do eat, they insist, is just to enjoy the taste or to simply accede to social conventions. “Oh, this bit of celery? I’m only eating it because I’m at this raging party and it’s really the thing to do in such a situation.”
A bite of carrot here, a grape there, perhaps some stock to quell that intense craving people tend to have for vegetable broth. As the woman in this couple explains: “humans can easily be without food – as long as they are connected to the energy that exists in all things and through breathing.”
Breatharians often practice sungazing as well. This is, well, this is just as it sounds: gazing into the sun purposely. The idea is that the energy of the sun will be absorbed directly through the face-peepers. You know, cutting out that pesky middleman, plant-based life. I do recall being told more than once as a child not to stare at the sun. Even as a child I was a little insulted to have to be told this. That someone considered me the kind of kid who would become partially blind before realizing that the burning light entering my retinas was perhaps unhealthy for them hurt my young feelings.
“You want to sign the card for Jim?”
“Sure, what happened to Jim?”
“Oh, Jim? He went partially blind.”
“Oh man, that’s terrible, what happened?”
“He stared directly into the sun for an hour and then burnt his retinas to shit.”
“Oh . . . like, on purpose? Someone didn’t set him facing the sun with that device thingy from a Clockwork Orange as some kind of sadistic method of torture?”
“No, he was trying to absorb the sun’s energy. He deliberately stared directly into the sun.”
“Uuuh, I mean, if he’s partially blind he can’t read whether I signed the card or not, right?”
“I suppose, but . . .”
Now, my hope is that every single person who reads this will have already independently come to the conclusion that both breatharianism and sun-gazing have reset the barometer of human stupidity to an entirely new level. This is the level of stupidity that can result in blindness or starvation but without the sympathy that these tragedies normally entail.
But how is it that we don’t hear about more breatharians and sun-gazers dying from a lack of water/food or going blind respectively? Surely, if people believed in breatharianism and were actually practicing it, they would die from a lack of nutrients. In the same way, if there were actual sun-gazers, they would be losing their burnt out retinas quicker than they could find braindead recruits to follow their foolish activity.
I believe the answer can be placed squarely on one constant of the human condition: our never-ending capacity for self-deception. If any of the practitioners of these two mad exercises sincerely believes that they only absorb nutrients through breathing in the energy of the universe or staring directly into the sun, it is only because they are lying to themselves and everyone else. In the same way an alcoholic underestimates the number of times they have had a social drink or a gambling addict underestimates how far under they are, a breatharian will not accurately estimate the number of drops of water and bits of food they’ve had and a sun-gazer will not correctly estimate how long they have gazed at the sun.